AAT vs ACCA – How to choose an accountancy qualification?
Having an accounting qualification can provide you with many opportunities as they are often recognised worldwide and are considered reputable within the business sphere. Professional accounting certifications have grown in popularity recently and many students are choosing them in order to forge a career in the modern business setting of today.
If you are planning to take up an accounting qualification and are unsure about which path to take, this blog is for you. Read on to learn how you can choose the accountancy qualification that fits with your career goals.
What is the AAT qualification?
The Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) is one of the leading accounting bodies in the UK. It has a presence in over 90 countries and has more than 120,000 members.
The AAT qualification aims to equip students with the necessary skills and knowledge to assume the role of an accountant within any organisation. AAT is comprised of three accounting qualifications: Foundation Certificate, Advanced Diploma and Professional Diploma. It also includes short courses which teach students bookkeeping skills.
Short courses in bookkeeping skills include:
- Foundation Certificate in Bookkeeping (Level 2, CIB);
- Foundation Award in Accounting Software (Level 2, AIAS);
- Advanced Certificate in Bookkeeping (Level 3, CIB).
The AAT Foundation Certificate helps students acquire a broad range of knowledge in the fundamental accountancy principles. These include: how to prepare financial statements, costing, how to use accountancy software and double-entry bookkeeping. Students who qualify from this certification programme could work in one of the following positions: payroll administrator, finance assistant, payable clerk and accounts officer. This certification usually takes between 6 months and 12 months to complete.
The Advanced Diploma qualification helps students build on the knowledge they acquired in the Foundation Certificate, wherein, students become familiar with crucial and complex accounting techniques, advanced bookkeeping, financial processes and procedures, ethical obligations and practices for accountants, including preparation of final accounts. This qualification, typically, takes 6 to 12 months to complete.
The AAT Professional Diploma equips students with skills and knowledge relating to complex accounting theories. The course includes topics such as taxation, accounting systems, preparation of financial statements, management accounting and budgeting. It can take anywhere between 12 to 28 months to complete this qualification. Students who have the AAT Professional Diploma to their credit can work in the capacity of tax manager, finance analyst, accountancy consultant or forensic accountant.
What is the ACCA course?
The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) is a globally recognised accountancy body with a presence in over 52 countries and more than 208,000 qualified members to its credit.
The ACCA qualification trains students to become qualified accounting professionals with a broad understanding of current accounting practices, standards and tools. ACCA-qualified professionals are recognised worldwide, making it easier for them to acquire jobs with top accountancy firms and other organisations.
The ACCA course comprises 14 papers that are categorised into 4 groups and 3 levels. Students who enrol on the ACCA course will study the following modules:
ACCA Knowledge Level
- Accountants in Business (AB);
- Management Accounting (MA);
- Financial Accounting (FA).
ACCA Skills Level
- Corporate and Business Law (CL);
- Performance Management (PM);
- Taxation (TX);
- Financial Reporting (FR);
- Audit and Assurance (AA);
- Financial Management (FM).
ACCA Essentials Level
- Governance, Risk and Ethics (GR & E);
- Corporate Reporting (CR);
- Business Analysis (BA).
- Advanced Financial Management (AFM);
- Advanced Performance Management (APM);
- Advanced Taxation (ATX);
- Advanced Audit and Assurance.
*Students can choose any two from the four options available to them, depending on their interests and the specialisation they want to pursue.
What are the differences between AAT and ACCA?
This qualification includes 3 exams.
This qualification includes 14 exams.
Students gain technical-level accounting expertise with AAT.
Students gain professional-level accounting expertise with ACCA.
AAT is the first step towards accounting, usually taken up by graduates.
ACCA is an advanced qualification and is usually taken up by working professionals.
Having prior work experience is not mandatory for AAT applicants.
Having relevant prior work experience is compulsory for ACCA applicants.
How to choose an AAT or ACCA accounting qualification?
When deciding the accounting qualification you should pursue, ensure that you take the following factors into consideration:
- Availability of time: The AAT qualification only has 3 levels of exams whilst the ACCA qualification requires you to successfully complete 14 papers to become a qualified professional. Therefore, it is obvious that you will have to invest more time if you decide to take up ACCA. You should ensure that you have an adequate amount of time to invest
- into your ACCA preparation before starting the course.
- Flexibility: While both the accounting qualifications are flexible, it might not be easy to juggle work and study, especially if you opt for an ACCA course. However, to make studying easier for ACCA students, many reputed universities offer part-time as well as online ACCA courses.
- Professional goals: Since AAT is a basic accounting qualification, acquiring it will allow you to take up entry-level roles within an organisation. On the other hand, ACCA is an advanced accounting qualification and allows you the opportunity to specialise in areas of your interest, widening the scope of your career.
If you have an affinity for analytical and numerical skills, taking up one of the above-mentioned accounting courses can steer your career in the right direction and equip you with the skills required to achieve your professional goals. Therefore you should consider the features of both AAT and ACCA when choosing the accounting qualification that is best for you.
This article was written by Meghdeep Patnaik and edited by Emma Chadwick.